City braces for turnover in workforce | October 19, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - October 19, 2012

City braces for turnover in workforce

Palo Alto looks for new ways to recruit and retain employees

by Gennady Sheyner

With work habits shifting and employee benefits under fire, Palo Alto is bracing for an exodus of workers from City Hall over the next five years and scrambling to find new ways to attract and retain young employees.

This story contains 1040 words.

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Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


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Posted by citizen
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Thorough article. Nice work.

Like this comment
Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm

I am so glad to read that they are considering these issues ahead of time, ot as they come up.

Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

"...create more opportunities for employees to advance their careers." This sounds good, but so far the way employees have advanced their careers, i.e. make more money, was to be promoted to a "managerial" position at a higher salary level. This whether or not they did different work or supervised other employees.

To truly deserve a promotion almost always should mean learning new skills and moving to another department. This is very difficult if the other department did not have an opening. With so many employees projected to be leaving, this should be easy in the short run. In the long run there should be less turnover and hence less opportunity to "advance their careers." Quite a bucket of worms. I predict that Mr. Keene will leave before he is faced with this problem.

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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Here's an idea:
Let them retire and then (with City Hall whining about lost experience, etc.), hire them back as overpriced consultants while we're paying their pensions. How cool is that!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm

The good news is that all those who are going to retire within 5 years and are at the management level, should not be replaced. We have too many administrators and not enough people doing the real work.

To save money, whittling down the number of chiefs and increasing the number of indians makes sense to me.

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

This is a prime time to restructure the whole government services delivery model. Palo Alto doesn’t need hundreds and hundreds of $100+K employees on staff, it needs to deliver certain services to the residents/businesses in the most cost-effective way possible. Merging some of the unessential services, such as HR/IT and Parks/Recreation with other local governmental agencies would help to reduce headcount/costs. Outsourcing some of the other staffing—such as police patrolling, ambulance services, and some of the facilities to private contractors would further reduce headcount and costs.

There is no reason that this City could not be run with as many as 50% employees, at less money than is being spent now. The difference in labor costs could be applied to infrastructure needs. Reducing the labor costs by just $20M a year would save over $400M in just 20 years (even more if the money were invested prudently). If the labor costs were reduced by $30M a year—then we would save $600+M after 20 years.

This is not a difficult concept. It just takes a little deft management. We are paying James Keene and his many Assistant City Mangers about $2M a year in salary and benefits. For that kind of money—they should be able to figure out how to downsize the current staffing levels. If they can’t—maybe it’s time to find real managers who can.

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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Just a thought:

Think about COMPUTERIZING and CONNECTING the different parts that makeup the infrastructure that is City Government!

That takes quite a bit of power and empire building away from people who shouldn't have it in the first place.

The good news; the power brokers who are smart will bail early ( called " grab & go " ) and the people who remain can actively sabotage the system. ( I WON'T CHANGE AND YOU CAN'T MAKE ME! )

If the taxpayer is able TO USE THEIR COMPUTER to make contacts with city government departments it turns the whole idea of access to city government departments on it's playing the " delay games " by departments, no " resubmit paperwork because we lost your copy " or the lie " we have no record of you submitting that ".

No more Tenure, no more " it's not what you know, it's WHO you know .

You don't pay ( and commit graft ) with a computer...

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Posted by alternate solution
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 17, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Hope to see some creative thinking and restructuring of positions to allow for a greater number of and wider range of part-time opportunities.

This is a community with a wealth of well educated, highly experienced (in both the corporate and non-profit sectors) potential employees who would consider fulfilling part-time employment. Many have young children or aging parents or are pursuing some other interests--but are open to part-time positions that require advanced skills.

Not only would the city benefit from the backgrounds and experiences of these employees, but they are already invested in the local community and familiar with what is working and what needs significant improvement. Most people open to part-time employement are willing to accept fewer benefits in exchange for greater scheduling flexibility. Win-win for the city.

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Posted by Clean Out
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:58 pm

The turnover has been good for Palo Alto. There has been too much deadwood, too many scandals, and too much gameplaying at City Hall for too long. Jim Keene has partially cleaned house. The expedited turnover in HR, Public Works, the City Attorney's Office, the City Manager's Office, and Administrative Services in the last several years has all been for the good. Let the rest of the old crew leave as expeditiously as possible to complete the job for Jim. Clean 'em out!

Like this comment
Posted by M-Bee-A
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 17, 2012 at 11:19 pm

And so it goes, in this once-land of milk and honey and invention - where all the bees who lived in the land stopped looking for pollen, deciding they'd rather just hear themselves buzz, instead.

Like this comment
Posted by slow torture
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 18, 2012 at 9:54 pm

"Palo Alto has been experiencing a brain drain since 2009, when the city began to renegotiate the benefit packages for city workers."

I would agree that brains have not been in supply for city affairs, and it's getting dumber by the day with the issue of the city desperately selling to developers.

No need to have a brain to sell out.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.